Principality of Orange

"County of Orange" redirects here. For other uses, see Orange County (disambiguation).
Principality of Orange
Principauté d'Orange
Vassal state of the Holy Roman Empire

Coat of arms

Map of the Principality of Orange
Capital Orange
Languages French
Government Principality
Prince of Orange
   1171-1185 Bertrand I of Baux (first)
  1650-1702 William III of Orange and England (last)
   Principality status granted 1163
   Ceded to France by the Treaty of Utrecht 1713
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Arles
Kingdom of France

The Principality of Orange (in French la Principauté d'Orange) was, from 1163 to 1713, a feudal state in Provence, in the south of modern-day France, on the left bank of the River Rhone north of the city of Avignon.

It was constituted in 1163, when Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I elevated the Burgundian County of Orange (consisting of the city of Orange and the land surrounding it) to a sovereign principality within the Empire. The principality became part of the scattered holdings of the house of Orange-Nassau from the time that William I "the Silent" inherited the title of Prince of Orange from his cousin in 1544, until it was finally ceded to France in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. Although permanently lost to the Nassaus then, this fief gave its name to the extant Royal House of the Netherlands. The area of the principality was approximately 12 miles (19 km) long by 9 miles (14 km) wide, or 108 square miles (280 km2).[1]


The Celtic settlement of Arausio (cf. the local Celtic water god Arausio), existed on the site; a major battle, which is generally known as the Battle of Arausio, was fought in 105 BC between two Roman armies and the Cimbri and Teutones tribes.

Arausio was refounded in 35 BC and settled by veterans of the Second Gallica Roman legion as Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio in full, "the Julian colony of Arausio established by the soldiers of the second legion".

Roman Arausio covered an area of some 170 acres (690,000 m2) and was well endowed with civic monuments - as well as the theatre and arch, it had a monumental temple complex and a forum. It was the capital of a wide area of northern Provence, which was parcelled up into lots for the Roman colonists.

The town prospered, though it was sacked by the Visigoths in 412. It became a bishopric in the 4th century, and the hill fort of the Celtic Cavares was renamed for Saint Eutrope, the first bishop of Saintes. In 441 and 529, Orange hosted two synods: the latter was of importance in condemning the Pelagian heresy. The sovereign Carolingian counts of Orange had their origin in the 8th century, and the fief passed into the family of the lords of Baux. The Baux counts of Orange became fully independent with the breakup of the Kingdom of Arles after 1033. In 1163 Orange was raised to a principality, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1365, foundation of Orange university by Charles IV when he was in Arles for his coronation as king of Arles.

Orange within papal Comtat Venaissin as of 1547

In 1431 the Count of Provence waived taxation duties for Orange’s rulers (Mary of Baux-Orange and Jean de Châlons of Burgundy) in exchange for liquid assets to be used for a ransom. The town and principality of Orange was a part of administration and province of Dauphiné.

In 1544, William I "the Silent", count of Nassau, with large properties in the Netherlands, inherited the title Prince of Orange. William, 11 years old at the time, was the cousin of René of Châlon who died without an heir when he was shot at St. Dizier in 1544 during the Franco-Imperial wars. René, it turned out, willed his entire fortune to this very young relative. Among those titles and estates was the Principality of Orange. René’s mother, Claudia, had held the title prior to it being passed to young William since Philibert de Châlon was her brother.

When William inherited the Principality, it was incorporated into the holdings of what became the House of Orange. This pitched it into the Protestant side in the Wars of Religion, during which the town was badly damaged. In 1568 the Eighty Years' War began with William as stadtholder leading the bid for independence from Spain. William the Silent was assassinated in Delft in 1584. It was his son, Maurice of Nassau (Prince of Orange after his elder brother died in 1618), with the help of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who solidified the independence of the Dutch republic. The United Provinces survived to become the Netherlands, which is still ruled by the House of Orange-Nassau.

As an independent enclave within France, Orange became an attractive destination for Protestants and a Huguenot stronghold. William III of Orange, who ruled England as William III of England, was the last Prince of Orange to rule the principality. Since William III died childless in 1702 the principality became a matter of dispute between Frederick I of Prussia and John William Friso of Nassau-Dietz, who both claimed the title Prince of Orange. The principality was captured by the forces of Louis XIV under François Adhémar de Monteil Comte de Grignan, in 1672 during the Franco-Dutch War, and again in August 1682. The territory was finally ceded to France by Frederick I of Prussia in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the wars of Louis XIV. Frederick I, however, did not give up the title of Prince of Orange.

Formally John William Friso of Nassau-Dietz, the other claimant of the principality, did not cede the territory in 1713. Only in 1732, with the Treaty of Partage, his successor William IV renounced all his claims to the territory, but not to the title (like Frederick I). In the same treaty an agreement was made between both claimants, stipulating that both houses are allowed to use the title.

In 1702, Louis XIV enfeoffed François Louis, Prince of Conti, a relative of the Châlon dynasty, with the Principality of Orange. In 1713, after it was officially ceded to France by the Holy Roman Empire, Orange became a part of the Province of the Dauphiné.

Following the French Revolution of 1789, Orange was absorbed into the French département of Drôme in 1790, then Bouches-du-Rhône, then finally Vaucluse.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna took care of a French sensitivity by stipulating that the (then new) kingdom of the Netherlands would be ruled by the House of Oranje-Nassau - "Oranje," not "Orange" as had been the custom until then. The English language, however, continues to use the term Orange-Nassau.[2]

Nowadays, both Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Dutch crown princess Amalia carry the title "Prince(ss) of Orange", Amalia in the official form of Prinses van Oranje.

Later uses

People dressed in orange in Amsterdam during Queen's Day in 2007

Due to its connection with the Dutch royal family, Orange gave its name to other Dutch-influenced parts of the world, such as the Orange River and the Orange Free State in South Africa, and Orange County in the U.S. state of New York. The orange portion of the flag of Ireland, invented in 1848, represents Irish Protestants, who were grateful for their rescue by William III of England in 1689-91. The flag of New York City and the flag of Albany, New York (which was originally known as Fort Orange) also each have an orange stripe to reflect the Dutch origins of those cities. The color orange is still the national color of the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch flag originally had an orange stripe instead of a red, and today an orange pennant is still flown above the flag on Koningsdag. Dutch national sports teams usually compete in orange, and a wide variety of orange-colored items are displayed by Dutch people on occasions of national pride or festivity. The flag of South Africa from 1928 to 1994 had an orange upper stripe and was very similar to the old Dutch flag also called Prince's Flag, because it was inspired in the history of the Afrikaners, who are chiefly of Dutch descent.


  1. George Ripley And Charles A. Dana (1873). The New American Cyclopædia. 16 volumes complete. article on Principality of Orange: D. Appleton And Company.
  2. Couvée, D.H.; G. Pikkemaat (1963). 1813-15, ons koninkrijk geboren. Alphen aan den Rijn: N. Samsom nv. pp. 119–139.

See also

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